Series 33


Is Jesus Returning in 2012?

I never thought about it until Stan asked the group: “Will Jesus return in 2012?”

He said, “You know the Mayan calendar ends in 2012.”  Actually, I didn’t know it still existed. Then he spelled out an extraordinary alignment of planets which is considered a definitive sign by some. He kept going. Next up, Stan, who is a true intellectual, told some very fascinating facts about Nostradamus and his 2012 predictions.

Later I did some research of my own. Here are some more reasons people cite for substantiating the 2012 return of Jesus.

I do not vouch for their facts, credentials, or truthfulness. Simply things to ponder. (1) NASA scientists predict hurling-toward-earth Death Star’s arrival.  (2) 200 million man Chinese army amassed as cited in the Book of Revelation. (3)Forty-five year God-given grace period ends. (4) Hidden Bible code reveals it.

Stan, who’s also a Bible scholar, asked us to read Matthew 24.  “You could spend a lifetime studying it.”

Jesus’ disciples asked Him point blank: “What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age.”

He lists a lot of signs. Including the oft quoted: “Wars and rumors of wars.” In addition: calamities, natural disasters, people turning nasty, on and on. But this is not what Jesus said first. First He said: “Watch out that no one deceives you…”

So our number one concern is not the date of Jesus’ return. The big number one is: are you living an undeceived life, following the one and only Jesus Christ?

And Jesus revealed that He doesn’t know the date of His return: “But only the Father (knows).”

Beyond this, Jesus offers this stern warning. “So you also be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.”


Decide to Be Great

“Let’s pray,” my wife, Nancy said. I smiled big just before closing my eyes, thinking, “This is cool.”

Kegan, Christopher, Halley, and Trenton instinctively set down what they were carrying, joined hands with Nancy and I. Then Nancy prayed.

Now let me set the scene. We’re exiting McDonald’s. We’re in the small airlock area between the outside and the inside. All glass doors and windows. Kind of an odd place for an instant-two-minute prayer meeting.

So what was so cool?

Our four prayer partners were all young children. To them fully expressing their faith and connecting with God in a definitively public setting is a normal way of viewing life. God’s totally real to them. So taking an unscheduled break to communicate with Him seemed natural.

I have to admit, at my wife’s suggestion to pray, I had a mental flash of the awkwardness of our overtly public setting. Thank God the thought evaporated almost instantly.

Jesus’ disciples came to Him and asked: “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” What would you answer if this was the first time you had ever heard this question?

The Bible says: “He (Jesus) called a little child and had him stand among them. And He said: I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

The words of Jesus clearly state that the greatest in the entire Kingdom of Heaven is: “Whoever.” Whoever humbles himself…

Almost unimaginable, but each one of us could qualify for this stature.  For me, God provided a glimpse of how it works—Kegan, Christopher, Halley, and Trenton.

Decide to be great: “Humble yourself like this little child.”


Thin-Soup Christians

When Eugene spoke, I listened intently to his wisdom.

“I know a person who is always buying cookbooks,” he said. “But they never cook. They’re satisfied with just looking at the pictures.”

Eugene then expanded the thought into what he describes as thin-soup Christians. They buy books on Christian living, yet they never engage in the deeper God-life which is the thrust of those books.

They’re satisfied to: “look at the pictures.”

Consequently they lack significant godly qualities. Their spiritual soup is thin.

Do you know anybody like that? I eat breakfast everyday with someone who’s constantly battling this dilemma.

My breakfast companion? Me.

Jesus’ brother James had a lot to say about thin-soupers. He put it in the context of listening rather than reading. Same concept.

Here are his words: “Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don't act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.”

James is saying: just looking at the pictures is utter foolishness.

And then James offers his recipe for cooking up a thick, hearty-souped Christian. “But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God--the free life!--even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.”

The thin-thick contrast is easy to spot. And “delight” is comforting. But “easy” evaporates when the action oriented God-life is pursued. Beyond a daily challenge; it’s a minute by minute push.

Our best plan? Call out to God for help.


The Christian Man Team

“He’s a Christian,” I said before hanging up the phone.

Heather had called me: “I don’t know what to do.” Her furnace was malfunctioning. She had no money. Or anyone to help. It was snowing and the temperature was heading toward single-digits.

I barely know her. And that’s only because I know two of her daughters from church. I asked a few questions, quickly realizing the problem surpassed my skill level. After a few moments the name, “Paul,” popped into my head.

Paul is a casual acquaintance. “Heather, I’ll try to get a hold of him,” I said. “No promises.”

An hour later the man I described as, “a Christian,” was at her door with tools in hand. He was willing to help someone he had never met at no charge. Paul was cordial and kind. Forty minutes later the furnace was running.  And he was thanking me!

Heather was near tears with gratitude. She saw a true Christian man.  But there was a lot she didn’t see.

She didn’t see John who I initially contacted to get Paul’s phone number. John didn’t have the number. But he stopped everything and started making phone calls. Chris got a message on his cell phone, quickly responding. 

Next Paul was contacted. On his way home from work, he didn’t have the proper tools. A quick call to his brother Larry and the needed tools were secured.

Five men, without hesitation responded.

A Bible verse came to mind as I later pondered the whole scene. “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.” Our bond of unity was our Christian faith. While good and pleasant resulted from this living brotherhood. We honored Jesus.

No committee meeting needed. No prior planning. Merely a simple expression of who we are—Christian men.


Daniel’s Song

The tears from the other end of the phone nearly obscured the message. And the static in my head declared: “No, this can’t be happening,” momentarily freezing my ability to respond.

Fourteen-year-old Daniel had been hit by a drunk driver while walking with a friend. He had been airlifted to a metropolitan hospital thirty miles north.

Psalm 118:17 became my prayer through the night at the hospital. “Daniel… will not die, but live. And tell of the works of the LORD.”

My faith in God remained firm all night, opposed to the words of the doctors. To the degree that it was difficult to absorb the words from Daniel’s mother seven hours later.

“He’s gone.”

The weight of his death piled on heavier than any I had ever experienced. I was Daniel’s pastor. We’re family—my third cousin. Daniel was my spiritual son. Beyond all, it felt like I had lost a son.

I’m a man of faith, the pastor. Now I have more questions than answers. My faith had been so strong: Daniel will live—“and tell of the works of the LORD.”

Through all, experience has taught me, God will provide answers.

Two hours later I received an e-mail from Bryan Corbin, a writing colleague. He knew nothing of my situation.

These are his words. “I queried the Lord yesterday about the difference between faith and trust—this is what I heard. Faith is what is required to believe in the things we’ve yet to see, while trust is what is required when what we see doesn’t seem to support what we’ve had the faith to believe.”

The answer, the message was clear—trust God. Always.

Psalm 27:13 says: “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”